The Feel-Good Perks of Indoor Cycling

How to Ride Your Way to a Better Mood and a More Positive State of Mind


If you’re like most people, when you think about indoor cycling you probably focus on the physical health and fitness benefits: the fact that you’re building cardiovascular fitness, improving your muscle tone and strength, and torching loads of calories in the process. Those are all powerful effects and they’re worth the ride on their own, as are the social perks of pedaling together.

But there’s a whole other category of benefits you’ll want to know about: the feel-good, empowering psychological perks that come from indoor cycling.

There are many and they can really add up. In fact, a 2014 study from the University of Sydney in Australia found that healthy men who cycle at least once a week have a higher psychological quality of life than their non-cycling peers.

Part of this effect undoubtedly stems from the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, which bring a sense of euphoria and enhanced well-being (they’re the substances behind the runner’s high). But part of this psychological boost also likely comes from the can-do attitude, the sense of self-efficacy, that indoor cycling cultivates in riders. And because indoor cycling reconnects your body and mind, you’re likely to emerge from the experience feeling physically and emotionally stronger and more confident as a result.

Here are some specific psychological benefits you can get from indoor cycling:

Stress relief: Indoor cycling is one of the best stress-busters around.

In a 2014 study involving 84 adults, researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, found that people who participated in cycling classes for 12 weeks, as part of a worksite stress management program, experienced a significant reduction in their perceived stress levels. They also gained a substantial boost in confidence about their ability to manage stress.

Better body image: Discovering how strong and capable your body is through regular indoor cycling can make you appreciate your body more and become less critical of it. Research from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Canada found that obese teenagers who participated in indoor cycling sessions twice a week experienced significant improvements in their body image after 10 weeks. These psychological benefits stem from improvements in their aerobic fitness, not changes in their body composition, the researchers concluded.

Less anxiety, better mood: It appears that, yes, you can sweat out your fears and frustrations, especially if you cycle at a moderate intensity. In a 2010 study, researchers from Canada found that after breast cancer survivors and their age-matched peers who didn’t have a cancer history cycled at a light to moderate intensity for 20 minutes, their anxiety levels went down and their sense of self-efficacy went up. Meanwhile, a 2009 study from Belgium found that when men and women with depressive and/or anxiety disorders cycled indoors for 20 minutes at a stretch, they experienced decreases in anxiety and negative mood.


Now here’s what research won’t (or can’t) tell you about the psychological perks of regularly participating in indoor cycling: After you climb one more hill or increase your pace one more time even though you’re exhausted and you feel like calling it quits, you’re likely to discover that you are physically and emotionally stronger than you thought. You’re likely to realize that you have a level of mental fortitude and vigor—grit, really!—that you didn’t know you had.

Over time, this hardiness and indomitable spirit are likely to expand and thrive, as you continuously push your limits with indoor cycling; after all, your mental outlook can be strengthened and toned, just like your physical muscles can. Gaining physical and psychological strength can inspire you to tackle new challenges and expand your comfort zone in other areas of your life. It’s a positive ripple effect, indeed.

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